With precautions, runners can still keep counting down the miles in the summertime.
With precautions, runners can still keep counting down the miles in the summertime. iStockphoto.com
As temperatures climb, even the slightest bit of outdoor exercise can seem an impossible proposition. But if you're determined to keep up your workout regimen, read on.
We caught up with Michael Bergeron, an exercise physiologist at the National Institute for Athletic Performance. Bergeron, vacationing in steamy Hilton Head, S.C., tells us he'd just returned from an hour-long run along the beach. While doing so he lost six pounds, mostly in water weight.
So how should one approach exercising in hot and humid weather? "Smartly and progressively," Bergeron advises. Easy for him to say.
The fundamentals are proper hydration, being well-rested and wearing light clothing. Bergeron says you should also acclimatize to the temperature before a workout and plan breaks ahead of time.
The body can fatigue quickly in hot weather because its ability to burn fat goes down. Instead, the body begins to rely on getting energy from carbohydrates. Bergeron warns that it doesn't take long to get into trouble.
The only way our bodies can cool off is by sweating. But the catch is that the sweat has to be able to evaporate. That means we’re worse off working out on a humid day because the sweat doesn’t evaporate as easily and starts to collect on our skin.
Bergeron tells us that kids can sweat more efficiently than adults. He says studies have shown that because kids have smaller sweat glands, they tend to sweat small droplets that evaporate quickly.
And according to Bergeron, running through the sprinklers or pouring water over your head won't help much. Water on your skin may feel nice at first but in the long run the old trick doesn't cool off your body.
Beware of overheating. Exercise and cardiovascular expert Dr. Gerald Fletcher told Shots that high temperatures not only affect the cardiovascular system but also brain function.
Heat stroke can be life-threatening, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Some people may be better off exercising in an air-conditioned environment. And it wouldn't hurt anybody to hold off until early morning or late evening hours.
Fletcher called us from Jacksonville, Florida, where highs this month have regularly hit the mid-90s. He says "you just can't be a macho person and run around in the sun until you're exhausted."
If you do start feeling nauseous or light-headed, listen to your body and head for the shade. For additional tips, check out the American Heart Association’s website.